Creating the Collaborative Enterprise
David J. Skyrme
Chapter 3 Update
This is the area in which there have been the most significant developments. The last few years have seen the term 'KM suite' fade into the background, and an upsurge in the following types of KM software tools:
A perennial problem is that of search and retrieval. Much investment is currently going into software that will help overcome the problems of information overlaod. Once approach is the growing use of natural language software. Another is the better use of metadata to describe content. Metadata is covered more fully in Chapter 5 of Capitalizing on Knowledge. In the wider Internet arena, there is a growing invisible Web, Internet pages that are not indexed by search engines, either because of the search engine backlog (often 6 monhts if you don;t pay for listings) or because of the growth of database driven websites, where pages are generated on-the-fly. Typical estaimtes are that less than 20 per cent of the World Wide Wbe is now indexed.
Steady growth has also occurred in the use of visualization tools, such as MindManager (featured in figure 3.4 on page 81) which help people organize their thoughts, suggests that the emphasis is continuing to move from trying to invest 'intelligence' in software to investing in developing more intelligence in people. One particular tools that combines both visualization and text mining is Cartia's Themescape. Once sold as a stand-alone tool, it is now part of Aurigin's patent management suite.
Intelligent Systems vs. Intelligent Humans
The success of automated knowledge retrieval tools, such as Autonomy, raises the whole debate about the relative merits of automated intelligent agents and intelligent agents of the human variety. With traditional text search software, considerable human skill is needed to retrieve meaningful sets of information. The perceived value of knowledge compiled by human effort is much higher than the "knowledge" returned by a statistically based software algorithm. There is no reason why in the hands of a skilled knowledge specialist, tools such as Autonomy can be used in preparing high quality knowledge briefs, for example. The danger is when corporations use these tools as substitutes for professional knowledge intermediaries.
One new net entrepreneur, David Lancaster, former editor of Soup Magazine, put the point very succinctly: "People don't want huge lists of restaurants on the net. What consumers are after is a few recommendations from people they can trust."
Such human challenges were briefly addressed at the end of the chapter (pages 93 - 95). The greatest problem faced by knowledge tool manufacturers which substitute artificial intelligence with the human variety is in dashing sky-high user expectations. Tools are useful in the hands of people who understand what they are doing and why. The recent waves of new Internet users have no background in information and knowledge management. If they don't know what they are doing, users will discover that they are not finding the knowledge that they need in a form in which they can use it. They abandon the knowledge tool and go back to more tried and tested means of finding what they need, such as asking friends and colleagues, joining email groups and subscribing to publication and intelligence services.
In summary, technology is a very important enhancer of knowledge networking (see for example table 3.3 on page 94), but we need more knowledge about them and how to use them effectively.
Is there any technology or knowledge tool that has significantly affected the way that you work or enhanced your knowledge processing capability? What do you think about carrying out automated searches by yourself vs. asking an information specialist or knowledge broker in your knowledge centre? We welcome your views on these or any other points on chapter 3 or knowledge technologies or tools that you wish to raise.
The Knowledge Connections web site provides a comprehensive resource for many topics covered in the chapter. You can also subscribe to a free monthly email briefing I3 UPDATE / ENTOVATION International news. Also make sure you check out Butterworth-Heinemann's Knowledge Management section from time to time for details of new publications and special offers.
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